When I saw the pictures of the Obamas at the Capital City Public Charter school in northwest Washington last week, I was certainly glad there were no commandeered planes crashing into buildings anywhere nearby. The photos did capture a number of sad expressions, doleful solitary meditations on the new president's face. Shades of 9/11. But Obama was being attacked by congressional Republicans, House and Senate both, not all those Saudis enrolled in Al-Qaeda. Obama looked disconcerted. Why me? Finally, he decided to strike back, not be so namby-pamby. But even that hasn't deterred these dead-enders. And now it's the two women Senators from Maine who are yanking his chain.
These two so-called moderates (Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins) just want to lower the number of billions in the stimulus. They're conciliators and want everyone to make nice. Take away the money for school construction. Give everyone 15 grand if they buy a house. That's cool, but really stupid, since it does, along with most every tax cut the loathsome Republicans propose, puts the money in the pockets of those who already have the most. It's not buying houses that is the problem, it's the losing them that hurts. And, boy, don't all those corporations need some more tax cuts? Where's Tip O'Neill when we need him? There is no one of his stripe in either the Senate or the House.
Though it was good, as the Republicans charged, that Obama had little experience — if he had been longer in Illinois government or the U.S. Senate, God knows what corruption troubles he'd have now! — he is learning on the job (as was also charged). Tom Daschle had to go and, thankfully, did. When the tax problems are six figures it shows that you're already being paid more than you're worth.
But what Obama still hasn't learned is to stand up to the phalanx of economic advisers he's inherited (his fault) from the Clinton administration. Robert Rubin must exude — what? — power, influence, knowledge, the way some starlets exude sex appeal. It must be his height and resume. The University of Chicago's famed economic ideology may have seeped into Obama during his time there in unattractive ways.
That Obama has resurrected Larry Summers, late of Harvard, driven out because he just wanted to talk about the notion that the brains of women just can't handle economics the way his can; Summers was, more or less, working out problems with his mother, who has a Ph.D. in economics (but not a Nobel Prize like his other male relatives.) But let Summers go to therapy, not the White House, but now he and the monied class's favorite, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (small number tax avoider), are not so much running things as giving their friends what they want.
And what is this thing about Judd Gregg running commerce? Gregg, like our former president, is another government family business blue-blood legacy. But, is he Obama's token white conservative in the cabinet? He's not the only Republican on board. Wasn't there any Democrat around without tax/nanny problems?
Today Obama's coming to Elkhart, Indiana, a twenty minute drive from South Bend. One can make up the speech before he gives it. Elkhart currently has the largest unemployment rate (around 15%), since they are more or less a one industry town, the RV industry. Want a good deal on a rolling luxury yacht with many pop-outs? Now's the time. Wind turbines in Northern Indiana to come? Consumer debt has been so high for so many years, one wonders why this bubble hasn't burst before. Americans have a lot of toys now, and you can buy a lot of used ones cheap on E-Bay. Obama's main chance for good outcomes, oddly, might be the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They may ultimately turn out to be less of a problem than the economic battles at home.